Archive for the ‘Tori Amos’ Category

Despite having grown up around a fair amount of Led Zeppelin (thanks to my sister), I first became acquainted with “When the Levee Breaks” while watching the amazing film, “Argo.” I’m not going to lie — I haven’t looked at the lyrics, which is a rarity for me, considering how much I value poetry. But thinking of the levee breaking as a metaphor, I suppose it’s describing the point where all control goes out the window. And the groove? Yeah, it doesn’t get any better than that. And Tori has covered it. I believe there’s a quote somewhere where Tori described Robert Plant as “the Goddess.” Goddess with a capital “G.” I found it: “Something really clicked in me when I discovered Led Zeppelin. And you have to understand what that did for me because first of all, oh my God, besides the guitar playing, which was you know, I *wanted* to be Jimmy Page. That’s what I really wanted to be. But I wanted to *be with* Robert Plant. Just the way he’d move his body and the sensuality. I mean, I just knew I had found the Goddess, that was it.”


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Once in a long while, I come across some incredibly astute and thought-provoking comment about Tori’s music via an online forum or youtube page. (Hence, I cannot claim originality with the Barber connection here). Anyway, I was watching a rather old video of a performance of “Upside Down,” a b-side from the Little Earthquakes era in the early 90s. And to my pleasant surprise, someone was comparing it to Samuel Barber’s “Excursions No. 1.” I know probably as much about Barber as the next average professional string player — not a particularly enormous amount, but certainly enough to be intrigued by this comment. So I went and had a listen. Sure enough, there are similarities, at least with the opening motif. My excitement stemmed from the fact that I’ve always felt that much of Tori’s music possesses the same haunting modalities found in composers I really, really love: Bartok, Chopin, Debussy…and Barber too apparently.  Tori was classically trained, having started at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore when she was 5, so perhaps it’s no surprise that classical elements are found all over her music, especially her output from the 90s.  “Upside Down” sounds undoubtedly more simplistic and a bit adolescent (I can say that since I’ve been listening to her since I was 14) compared to the Barber.  But songs like “Peeping Tommi” (also from the same era) are a bit richer musically, and also echo such pieces as Debussy’s “Cathedral Engloutie” (the Sunken Cathedral) and Bartok’s “Roumanian Folk Dances.” I’m not really interested in theoretical analyses of these pieces (sorry, said analysis is just boring as hell, in my opinion, and I’ve had way too many colleagues say to me over the years, “hey, listen to that augmented 6 chord” ugh!), but sonically and emotionally, I feel they come from the same source. When I first discovered Tori (circa 1994), I had been studying piano quite seriously for many years. And one of things I gravitated to in her music, particularly that of “Under the Pink,” was that it reminded me of Chopin Waltzes and Nocturnes. The waltz-y sections of “Yes, Anastasia”, for example, were basically a cooler, edgier, more contemporary version of Chopin.  And all of these other comparisons are really fodder for greater, richer listening experiences.  So listen on!  😉

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Robert Smith and Tori are pretty much my favorite musicians ever.  I listened to them through the nineties, through college, through graduate school, through my twenties, and I still do.  I live a life surrounded by a great many “tee-tas” (snooty classical musicians who like to sing music to friends and colleagues using “tees” and “tas”) so these days I find even greater solace in the music that speaks closest and dearest to my heart.

This is one of Tori’s most beautiful covers.  So different from the Cure’s original version, yet capturing, I think, the true essence of what the song is all about.  It’s one of the world’s greatest love songs.  And both Robert and Tori’s ability to convey melancholic, earnest, profound feeling never fails.

Gotta admire Robert’s iconic high tops…and lipstick:

Beautiful Tori photo show, to boot:

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I don’t know why I couldn’t combine this post with the one below it, but I couldn’t figure it out…Alas…

My comfort song…See below…

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In light of the recent (and horrifying) image of Tori Amos for her upcoming record, “Night of Hunters,” I decided to go back to music that gives me hope, personally and artistically.  I love to write about Tori, but rather than doing just that, I’m going to post my favorite live performances from each era.  Tori reminds me what it is to be a musician and why I chose to go that path with my life.  Enjoy!  🙂

Little Earthquakes Era – 1991/1992: “Here in my Head,” a b-side (Best moment: 3 minutes, 10 seconds basically to the end).  Painfully heartfelt, honest, angst-ridden in the most beautiful way…Best line/verse (I think):

maybe i’m just the horizon you run to
when she has left
you and me here
alone on the floor
you’re counting my feathers
as the bells toll
you see the bow and the belt
and the girl from the south
all favorites of mine
you know them all well
and spring brings fresh little puddles
that makes it all clear
makes it all…
hey, do you know
hey, do you know
what this is doing to me?
oh, here…
here. in my head

Under the Pink era: “Bells for Her” 1994  — sensitive, dark, moody, sad, earnest.  You kind of have to be a major fan to sit through the entire performance, but man, what an introspective ride.  This song reminds me of very lonely winters.   Best line/verse: bells and footfalls and soldiers and dolls
brothers and lovers she and i were
now she seems to be sand under his shoes
there’s nothing i can do
can’t stop what’s coming
can’t stop what’s on its way

Boys for Pele (I’m allowed 2 since this is my favorite record of all-time).  1) Marianne 2) Horses/Fool on the Hill

Best line/verse from either: tuna
a little blubber in my igloo
and i knew you pigtails and all
girl when they fall
and they say marianne killed herself
and i said not a chance
don’t you love the girls ladies babies
old bags who say she was so pretty why
why why why did she crawl down in the old
deep ravine

From the Choirgirl Hotel: Such an AWESOME record.  I’m choosing her performance of “Cruel” at Madison Square Garden in 1998.  Best line:  dance with the sufi’s celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain
lover brother bogenvilla my vine twists around your need
even the rain is sharp like today as you sh-sh-shock me sane
no cigarettes only peeled HAVANA’S for you i can be cruel

To Venus and Back: Such a special record.  I choose a live performance of “Concertina”.  Best line/verse: the soul-quake
happened here in a glass world
particle by particle
she slowly changes
she likes hanging chinese paper cuts
just another fix
can i weather this

i got my fuzz all tipped to play
i got a dub on your landscape
then there’s your policy of tracing
the sauce without the blame

Strange Little Girls – 2001 – terribly unique covers album.  I choose “Real Men,” written by Joe Jackson.  Best line/verse: what’s a man now
what’s a man mean
is he rough or is he rugged
cultural and clean
now it’s all changed
it’s got to change more
we think it’s getting better
but nobody’s really sure

Scarlet’s Walk – 2002: Such a beautiful masterpiece of a record.  I choose her live version of “Virginia.”  Best line/verse:  he will
change from her
sunwise to clockwise
to soul trading
still she’ll lay
down her Body
covering him all
the same
oh Virginia
do you remember
when the Land held
your hand
oh Virginia

The Beekeeper – 2005 – I fell in love with my husband right around when this record came out, so it’s hard for me NOT to love it.  Still, it shows a departure from the bad ass, angsty, emotional Tori we saw previously. Nonetheless, I think her live shows were incredible.  I choose “Song of Soloman,” which was basically an improv she did for a Viktor & Rolf fashion show.  Parts of it are in her tune, “Take me with You.”  this is pretty magical.  Just watch the whole clip if you can, so you wait for the models to come out.  They do so at 2:15.

American Doll Posse: I don’t have much to say here, but she blew me away at the live show in 2007 for this record.  I choose “Beauty of Speed.”  She is pretty mesmerizing in this.

Abnormally Attracted to Sin: 2009 – Strong Black Vine, live, because she does a “Tori rant” reminiscent of her rants from 1998-ish.  Interesting record, but not much to say.  Still, this live clip is pretty awesome.  I happened to be reading “the Story of O” when this record came out, and well…it proved to be a pretty amazing soundtrack.  😉  She’s pretty insane in this vid, but if you’re a Tori fan…well, I guess we get it.

I have to end on a better note, however.  So this is my favorite live performance of a b-side (other than “Here in My Head.”)  I choose “Butterfly” from the Under the Pink era.  “Butterfly” is in my top 5 favorite Tori songs of all time.  Favorite line/verse:

stinky soul get a little lost in my own
hey general, need a little love in that hole of yours
one ways, now, and saturdays and our kittens
all wrapped in cement
from cradle to gumdrops
got me running girl as fast as i can
and is it right, butterfly,
they like you better framed and dried

Tori Amos, Choirgirl era, circa 1998

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Just for fun, I’m adding my favorite line from each record.  🙂

1. Tori Amos, “Boys for Pele”: passionate, dark, improvisational, beautiful, innovative

“Don’t make me scratch on your door, I never left you for a banjo, I only just turned around for a poodle and a Corvette, and my impression of my best Angie Dickinson…”

2. Kate Bush, “Hounds of Love”: epic, symphonic, inventive, moving, revolutionary

“It breaks the cage, and fear escapes and takes possession, just like a crowd rioting inside.”

3. The Beatles, “the White Album”: imaginative, quirky, colorful, crafted, eclectic

“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping, while my guitar gently weeps.  I look at you all, still my guitar gently weeps.”

4. Joni Mitchell, “Blue”: intimate, cozy, lyrical, nuanced, unforgettable

“Born with the moon in Cancer.  Choose her a name she will answer to.  Call her green for the children who’ve made her.  Little green, be a gypsy dancer.”

5. Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon”: trippy, atmospheric, memorable, nuanced, intriguing

“Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died.  And the general sat and the lines on the map moved from side to side.”

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I recently read an article entitled “Birth of the Uncool: in Defense of the Tori Amos Fan” via Bitch magazine (http://bitchmagazine.org/article/birth-of-the-uncool).  Great article and sort of hit the nail on the head of something that has been rather a mystery to me the last, say, 6 years or so — that Tori really has become “uncool.”  Now, I never, NEVER loved Tori because she was considered “cool,” but yes, I did indeed have a pretty hearty group of friends & aquaintances who appreciated her, particularly in the mid-late ninties & about up to 2003-ish.  Then suddenly my Tori stickers on my cello case seemed…well, less cool.  But especially as a musician, I can’t help myself — I LOVE her.  And will forever.  She is the ultimate consummate musician and a total bad ass.  Her music has been my best friend through every major event in my life since 1995.  What more can I say, her music has changed my life.  And “cool” or not, it is worth considering.  It is worth revisiting.

I’ve already written (probably ad nauseum) about Tori and how awesome she is, but I really think the music speaks for itself.  I STILL think she is a phenomenal pianist, though I’m far more impressed with her material from the 90s – her live material, mostly – than from anything since Scarlet’s Walk.  But man, she is awesome.  Her playing, her voice, her timing, her originality of lyrics & compositional techniques (see: Springtime of His Voodoo, etc.) her natural feel for rhythm and nuance of phrase.  One word: superb.  Take this live clip from 1994…sorry, no Regina Spektor or (god forbid) Lady Gaga comes close.  (Trust me, I have FAR more respect for Regina than Gaga, no doubt, man!) http://www.hereinmyhead.com/sounds/files/bees/UpsideDown_LiveInBoston1994.mp3

I think the important thing to me, as a musician, is that no one sounds like Tori.  Her piano style and vocal style are totally hers.  Sure, sometimes her high range may echo Kate Bush or Joni Mitchell, particularly with the piano material accompanying it.  But really, they are all so incredibly different that the comparison may not really be fair.  Perhaps such a comparison is just cliche.

Who knows why Bjork is trendy with professional musicians & Tori is considered a little quirky & “uncool”

My sister did this as a CD cover. 🙂

.  Doesn’t seem like a fair evaluation, but the masses are a tricky bunch.  I would actually much prefer that jazz musicians NOT do Tori covers…oh geez, let’s pray that doesn’t happen (and I absolutely love many, many branches of jazz, so that’s no offense here)…but it would mean that Tori had indeed become…well, trendy.  So Bjork can hold that place, and that’s cool.  😉

Tori’s music speaks for itself…Nevermind the crazy, tribal dance at the beginning…and the scrunchy.  Tori rules:

A different era, but totally awesome:

One more clip; my favorite Y Kant Tori Read song and a great “running mix” addition.  80s Tori rules:

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